Oxford don says education reforms 'won't hurt' Hongkongers' chances

Pro-vice-chancellor at leading university says 3-3-4 system won't dim enrolment prospects

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 December, 2012, 4:59am

Secondary-education reforms that abandoned a long-running British model of schooling will not affect Hongkongers' chances of winning a place at Oxford University, its pro-vice-chancellor says.

"We have students coming to us with many, many different high-school backgrounds, so we have a very sophisticated table of recruitments, to make sure we can judge people fairly on their merits," said Professor William James.

Hong Kong departed from the British four-year senior-secondary curriculum in 2009. Pupils now go through three years of senior-secondary education, and those qualified to go on to university will take four years to complete standard courses, up from three years previously.

This year, the first batch of affected pupils took new exams after Form Six to assess their eligibility for university studies.

"My personal view is that the four-year curriculum in Hong Kong universities is a great education, a great improvement," James said.

Oxford is planning to roughly double its number of permanent scholarships, as it seeks an extra £100 million (HK$1.24 billion) within the next five years to host 100 students from around the world each year.

James, who visited the city yesterday for fundraising activities, said the move was important in the face of Oxford's fierce fight for talent with its counterparts across the Atlantic.

"It's a market thing, a competition thing," he said. "The greatest rivals to us - places like Princeton and Harvard and so on - can offer quite a number of full scholarships. What that means is, if we can't offer them, we won't attract the very best students."

China, including Hong Kong and Macau, is now the second-largest source of Oxford's students outside Britain, with 801 this year.

The United States is top, with 1,513 students at Oxford, a university document shows.

In the past year, Oxford has awarded 30 per cent more scholarships to Chinese applicants.